The film The 300 Spartans is the story of the Battle of Thermopylai, where the 300 strong personal guard of King Leonidas defended a mountain pass at Thermopylai so that Xerxes of Persia couldn t conquer Greece. As far as detailing how the events at Thermopylai went, The 300 Spartans was an accurate film. In real life, Leonidas and his men held the Persians back for two days, after which, they were sold out by a local Greek named Ephialtes. In the movie, Ephialtes is rejected by a Spartan women, which gives him the motif to lead the Immortals through the abandoned goat track. Whether this was actually his reason for helping Xerxes is irrelevant, as it probably isn t mentioned in any history books.
It also adds a little more interest to the film for those who saw it for reasons other than watching men hack into each other with swords. When news of the Immortal s back door attack became apparent, the Athenians were ordered to retreat. Only the Boiotians aided Leonidas and his men (the real Spartan army were sent only as far as the Isthmus of Corinth). This was included in the film not only because it was historically correct, but also because it made the out numbered side seem more heroic. The Boiotians were defeated first, then the King was killed in battle. His now unemployed personal guard formed a protective circle around his corpse, where they are finally finished off with arrows.
As a source of historical information, The 300 Spartans isn t as accurate as you might hope. The Spartans, in real life, fought their battles in the nude (with the exception of a small amount of armor). In the film, however, the soldiers are fully clothed, as are the women back home (they too wore few garments). This mistake is understandable, as no production company, now or then, would finance and release a mainstream movie where half of the extras, as well as centra characters, are running around naked (good luck finding the actors, too). Also absent was the fact that the Spartan men were bi-sexual. Such a film could be made nowadays, but there would still be an enormous backlash against it from conservative groups.
They could ve at least used Greek actors. The difference in temperament between the two rival leaders was too big to be realistic. Xerxes was shown to have been the most black hearted man around, and even though he was a mean person, he probably wasn t as evil as he was made out to be. Leonidas had the opposite problem of being too squeaky clean, but that fault was common in all of the movies made in the sixties. Spartan mentality was exhibited excellently. The disgraced soldier would rather have thrown himself from a cliff than leave his king.
At the end, Xerxes promised that if the remaining warriors surrendered Leonidas body, they would be spared. Of course, they declined, choosing to die by his side rather than return home defeated. In my opinion, the Spartans would ve tried to take out as many Persians as possible before being killed, and not have juste stood there to be shot at. In conclusion, The 300 Spartans portrayed the major events at the Battle of Thermopylai very well. Unfortunately, it wasn t a very reliable source of historic information.